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New SLAS Board of Directors Members Excited to Help Shape Society

The newest members of the SLAS Board of Directors have experienced personally what the Society can do to enrich one's career and support individual innovators who seek to reshape the world through scientific ingenuity. They are fully committed to ensuring that SLAS continues to lead the way for many years to come.


Peter Grandsard, Ian Shuttler and Sabeth Verpoorte join the 2016 SLAS Board of Directors for three-year terms beginning at SLAS2016. They join six current members to strategize, dream dreams and seek business opportunities that deliver value to SLAS members and the global life sciences discovery and technology community.

Grandsard is an executive director in Amgen Research (USA). In this current role, he is responsible for the chemical, biophysical and physical characterization of research-stage therapeutic candidates and reagents, synthetics and biologics alike. One of his groups also focuses on proteomics in order to understand disease biology at the molecular level. Grandsard has more than 25 years of industrial experience across the biopharmaceutical and petrochemical industries. He has managed Amgen functions in bioassay development and screening, small molecule process analytical sciences, and laboratory automation technologies.

Shuttler is currently the head of strategy and portfolio management for the Life Science Division at Tecan Trading AG (Switzerland). He is an analytical scientist with over 25 years experience in product, business and R&D management at Tecan Trading, PerkinElmer and Agilent Technologies. At Agilent Technologies, he led the R&D team for developing chromatography consumables. In his time with PerkinElmer, he worked in the United States and Europe in a variety of positions. While based in the U.S., he served as vice president for strategic initiatives within the environmental health division and vice president leading the global inorganic analysis business.

Verpoorte has more than 25 years of research experience in the lab-on-a chip field in both industrial and academic environments in Europe. Head of the Pharmaceutical Analysis Group in the Groningen Research Institute of Pharmacy (The Netherlands) since 2003, she has been working with cells and tissues in microfluidic devices to develop enabling tools for her colleagues. Efforts have also concentrated on microparticle separation strategies and miniaturized analytical instrumentation. Verpoorte has published more than 80 papers in top analytical chemistry journals. She is or has been involved in several international conference organizations and journal editorial boards.

Why did you become a member of SLAS?

Grandsard: I was doing a lot of lab automation as a graduate student in British Petroleum Research Labs and in my guest scientist days at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Hence I became an early member of the Association for Laboratory Automation (ALA). After the merger with the Society for Biomolecular Sciences, I remained a member because of my continued involvement with lab automation, biomolecular screening and material management at Amgen.

Shuttler: I may be an unusual Board member in that I have only been a member of SLAS since I joined Tecan in the summer of 2012. Until that time I was not aware of the existence of SLAS! However, I have always joined and tried to contribute to the professional bodies associated with the areas in which I'm currently working.

Verpoorte: I was first introduced to SLAS, then ALA, in 1999, when I was invited to set up a short course about lab-on-a-chip/microfluidics technology for the ALA conference. The course proved to be a big success, and so I returned to give it again the next year, and the year after that, which led to more active involvement in ALA/SLAS conferences. And here I am! For me, it wasn't a deliberate decision to join SLAS – it feels more like I evolved into it. Being a member, I discovered, was great for lots of reasons. SLAS has opened up a whole new world of life sciences technologies for me.

Why have you chosen to increase your involvement over the years, and what have you found most beneficial from your membership?

Grandsard: My responsibilities and interests at Amgen coincide with focus areas of SLAS, so I participated in committees with the desire to help shape SLAS and its strategy. Volunteering for SLAS is volunteering for a good (professional) cause. The benefits include a network of peers and friends, as well as the satisfaction derived by directly helping a very relevant professional association.

Shuttler: I was asked to join the SLAS Europe Council when it formed in late 2013. In addition, I worked with Sabrina Corazza to form and act as co-chair of the European Industry Advisory Committee reporting to the Europe Council. Over the last two to three years I have tried to make sure that the supplier voice and opinions are heard within SLAS. My involvement in SLAS has enabled me to expand my network and knowledge very quickly.

Verpoorte: My positive experience with the organization has definitely been the big factor for my continued and growing involvement in SLAS over the years. I am very happy to support an organization that is so engaged in serving its members, and moreover, continually finding new ways to do this. I personally have benefited from membership by having Ph.D. students in my group attend the courses and the conference through the Tony B. Academic Travel Award program. Moreover, I have found the opportunity to network with not just colleagues in my field, but researchers from many different areas, to be very positive for the science that I do.

How have your work background, and life experiences in general, prepared you to step into this new role as a board member?

Grandsard: My past and current responsibilities in automation, bioassay and analytical technology development and applications, as well as working with technologists and scientists in and outside Amgen, overlap quite a bit with SLAS's areas of interest. My experience as an ALA Board member and president also has prepared me to take on the additional responsibility of SLAS Board member.

Shuttler: Throughout my career I have been fortunate to be exposed to a wide range of scientific, technical and business leadership experiences primarily dealing with the R&D/business interface. I have had the opportunity to take an idea all the way through technology development to commercial introduction and am well aware of the challenges in ensuring success. In addition, in the past, I have been heavily involved in organizing several scientific conferences and working on Royal Society of Chemistry Editorial Boards. I have spent a large part of my career developing and implementing strategic plans, managing complex portfolios and interacting with management or executive boards. Consequently I believe my experiences have made me well aware of the need to provide a strong focus on the critical issues and not get lost in the details – which is easy to do as we scientists love getting into the details! However, this is what board members need to avoid.

Verpoorte: Having worked in the academic environment for almost 20 years, 12 of those as a university professor, I have ample experience heading up a multidisciplinary team as well as working and leading research consortia. I have led the organization of three international conferences, and am now chairing the Dutch Analytical Chemistry Study Group. I have enjoyed all these opportunities to work with other scientists to achieve common goals, and can draw from them in my new role as a member of the SLAS Board. As a European researcher with roots and education in Canada, I have a special interest in the internationalization of SLAS, and hope my perspective can help advance this SLAS initiative in the coming years.

As a newly elected board member, how do you see yourself contributing to the SLAS purpose to advance life sciences discovery and technology through education about scientific research, and to serve as a public forum for the exchange of information?

Grandsard: I feel qualified to provide guidance on SLAS strategy. As mentioned in my nomination documents, I believe technology management should be another focus area for SLAS, and I can contribute to the pursuit of this focus area.

Shuttler: I am passionate about ensuring there is a deeper involvement and close cooperation between the inventors, developers and purchasers/users of new solutions within the life science and analytical science fields. SLAS is the ideal vehicle to promote and nurture this communication flow. I think the multiple pillars or circles of the SLAS organization covering academic research to suppliers and then through to users are a fascinating combination. My entire career has been spent at the R&D/business interface so I feel I have a unique perspective on the strategic, scientific, technical and business challenges involved. Frankly, it is all about communication, making sure the right people are talking to each other and providing opportunities for the deep experience in this organization to be shared. I'm looking forward to promoting an inclusive approach to this while on the board.

Verpoorte: One of the great things about SLAS is its educational purpose. The SLAS conference continues to provide high-quality content for attendees, and is bolstered by a Short Course program offering the latest information in areas of key interest to SLAS members. The SLAS organization also has an extremely generous award program for supporting the conference attendance of young scientists. I will work with other Board members on the strategic development of the SLAS organization to ensure a firm basis for, and a further expansion of, these kinds of initiatives. Vital to SLAS and its advancement of life sciences discovery and technology is the interaction between researchers from academia, industry and governmental organizations. The enhanced integration of all these parties into SLAS continues to be a strategic challenge, especially on a global level. This is the challenge I hope to be able to address together with my fellow Board members.

What is most exciting to you about taking on this new responsibility?

Grandsard: This is a great opportunity to help shape SLAS strategy and pursue or strengthen initiatives that offer value to the SLAS membership. Volunteering is important to me, and this Board position is yet another way I can be of service.

Shuttler: I think the advances in Europe are the ones I'm most excited about. SLAS has been a predominantly U.S.-based and focused organization, but the last two years have seen major steps forward in bringing the SLAS message to Europe. As a 'Brit' who has lived in Germany, back to the U.K., then the U.S. and now Switzerland, I know from first-hand experience the challenges of dealing with the different views and perspectives across the Atlantic! I'm interested in making sure SLAS strategy and guidance to the management team reflect this.

Verpoorte: SLAS has evolved into an organization that seeks to serve the life sciences technology community as a forum for exchange of information between scientists in different research environments. While the annual conference spearheads this forum, the challenge is to keep it active year-round through journals and other means. Developments in the Internet and social media are rapidly changing the way people interact professionally. I am excited about working with the Board to better understand how to tune SLAS offerings to the needs of its members in the new global context created by the Internet and the possibilities for bringing people together virtually.

Where do you see SLAS making the greatest impact in the next two years? The next five years?

Grandsard: The next two years, I see SLAS providing instrumentation technology startups with opportunities to reach other businesses and clients with their new products/services so they can to grow and make a difference. Slightly longer term I see continued education of members on applications of new laboratory technologies, new applications of existing technologies or new technology ensembles.

Shuttler: I see SLAS expanding its presence in Europe over the next couple of years. One of my own personal desires is to see a greater emphasis on the quality control of the data that is produced. Through automation and technological advances we can produce huge amounts of information but how do we know it is fit for purpose? I also think there are large areas outside life sciences where many of the automation technologies are needed and these have not been fully explored and perhaps are areas where the expertise within SLAS can be applied.

Verpoorte: Perhaps the question could be posed the other way around: What will have the greatest impact on the SLAS in the next two to five years? In any case, I applaud the ongoing efforts to expand the SLAS network to include even more European, African, Asian and Australian scientists from academia, industry and government alike. If this effort is successful – and I think SLAS has the strategic smarts and resources in-house to accomplish this – it will have an enormously positive impact on SLAS and the community. It could transform SLAS into an organization with global influence on technology, an organization that facilitates much faster scientific and technological development through enhanced networking – a win-win situation for SLAS members, the field, and ultimately, society as a whole.

What would you tell someone who is considering becoming a member of SLAS?

Grandsard: Very simply I would tell them that SLAS provides an excellent framework/environment for professional development and networking. It is definitely worth the modest membership fee.

Shuttler: I would recommend getting involved with SLAS, especially at an early stage in your career. The networking and contacts I made through attending atomic spectroscopy meetings were essential in my early days. Later on, organizations like SLAS were great vehicles to utilize and learn about new aspects of the underlying science. You never know in which direction your career may take you. Switching fields is possible. Core skills are transferable but to ramp up quickly in a new area such as lab automation, the SLAS contacts and discussions I had were very beneficial.

Verpoorte: I am a great promoter of the SLAS Short Course program and Tony B Academic Awards program to support young scientists to attend the conference, and so I encourage young scientists to consider SLAS for these reasons. The opportunities for networking and career development that SLAS offers scientists in the early stages of their career are really second to none. I also recommend SLAS conference attendance and membership to companies developing new technologies for the life sciences. The Exhibition continues to grow, and the exhibit floor continues to be a great place to network and do business, from what I hear from company colleagues.

Editor's Note: Discover SLAS through the words and experiences of members – enjoy these short video testimonials.

What does the Society's tagline – Come Transform Research – mean to you?

Grandsard: Instrumentation, assay and automation technologies evolve and when smartly applied in sync with one another, they can enable new discoveries or facilitate learning. With these technologies properly implemented, one can do more with less, can try new things or can do things more safely.

Shuttler: As someone who has spent a great deal of time involved in marketing activities, it is the implication behind a tagline that is critical. I feel that SLAS needs to do far more in pushing the value it brings to a wider audience. Those already involved don't need to be sold on the benefits of SLAS! However, providing clear statements of the benefits of operating at the fascinating interface between scientific discovery and technological advances to achieve or utilize those discoveries needs to be more clearly articulated.

Verpoorte: Being an active microfluidics researcher, the SLAS tagline speaks to me about the importance of getting new technologies faster into the hands of researchers studying diseases and their treatment, to accelerate translation of new drugs and treatments into the clinic.

When not involved in work/SLAS activities, how do you like to spend your time?

Grandsard: I look forward to spending time with family. Also, I volunteer in my son's Boy Scouts of America troop, make an effort to visit places in the world not experienced before, read books, and play tennis and table tennis.

Shuttler: For over 30 years I have been riding motorcycles and am passionate about the training and development of advanced road skills for riders. I'm an ex-motorcycle observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists in the U.K. and during my time in the U.S., developed and ran the Stayin' Safe Connecticut tours providing on-road training. Having returned to Europe, I'm now back on technically demanding roads and re-discovering the Alps. When the snow is too deep for riding, then I can be found skiing! My son will graduate from Skidmore College, NY, this summer and then my wife
and I will be busy moving him to the U.K. for his masters at Loughborough University.

Verpoorte: I enjoy travelling, and spend a few weeks each year touring in different areas of Canada and the U.S. People are wonderful everywhere you go, and so I appreciate the opportunities I have to interact with my colleagues from all over the world at various conferences I attend as well. Those of us active in science on an international level are fortunate, I think, as our "language" transcends national boundaries. We can appreciate each other as individuals without the culture clashes that appear to often threaten international relations these days.

Is there anything else you would like the SLAS ELN readership to know about you?

Grandsard: I love walking our dog, Charlie, on the local trails. Until three years ago, we did not have a dog. Enter Charlie, a labradoodle, and we have enjoyed his company very much. Best wishes for 2016! A lot of fun and good health!

Shuttler: I am also a member of the conference board for the Product Management Festival in Zürich.

Verpoorte: I look forward to meeting many of you in my tenure on the Board!

January 18, 2016